Toronto’s Year of Public Art 2021: Celebrating the city’s art and community

Garden of Future Follies, the patinated cast bronze sculpture installed by Hadley+Maxwell (commissioned by Waterfront TO) in 2016 can be found at the corner of Front St. E and Bayview Avenue. (Courtesy of Toronto Storeys)

Toronto is already home to over 1,500 works of public art, but through its year-long initiative Year of Public Art starting January 2021, the City hopes to grow this number and redesign its urban fabric to encourage a more vibrant culture of public art in Toronto.

In November 2019, Mayor John Tory declared 2021 as the Year of Public Art. The announcement marked the first step in the City’s Public Art Strategy for 2020-2030, which provides a 21-point roadmap for renewed investment in the City’s Public Art infrastructure. 

The Year of Public Art 2021 initiative, sponsored by the City of Toronto in partnership with the Toronto Arts Council, will be a symbolic and practical kick-start to this process, promising to deliver major pieces of public art while providing grants to support the work of local artists.

The program will celebrate Toronto’s incredible collection of public art and the artists behind it, while creating more opportunities for the public to connect and engage with the work. The program will also work closely with artists and Toronto’s key arts institutions to deliver major public art projects and commissions for 2021.

The Public Art Strategy created for the program is based on three key pillars: creativity, community, everywhere. 

The pillars altogether focus on a range of objectives from short- to long-term objectives such as:

  • Issue open calls to artists and curators for project ideas.
  • Animate Toronto with temporary public art.
  • Champion career-launching platforms for the next generation of public artists.
  • Create new skills development and leadership opportunities for Indigenous artists, curators, and art consultants in the field of public art.
  • Encourage new methods of community-engaged public art works in a variety of media. 
  • Create more public art opportunities for artists from equity-seeking communities.
  • Engage Indigenous communities to identify sites of significance across Toronto for Indigenous public art projects.
  • Establish an artist-in-residence program in city divisions.
  • Pool public art funds to produce new works in underserved areas of the city.
  • Protect public artworks city-wide through proactive maintenance and conservation.

The 10-year Public Art Strategy (2020–2030) is built on the understanding and recognition that the city of Toronto is situated on the traditional territory of many nations, and is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. 

“Everyone has a role to play in advancing truth and reconciliation. Public art can be an evocative entry point into this conversation — helping to restore visibility to Toronto’s Indigenous communities, creating a greater sense of place and belonging, sparking dialogue about the legacy of colonialism and a shared path forward,” City Council said in the elaborate strategic proposal it put forward at the commencement of the program. 

This map shows nearly 400 works of public art commissioned throughout the city of Toronto, which will be updated as the year goes by. The gallery below highlights a few key pieces currently scattered throughout the city.

Tadashi Kawamata, Untitled (Toronto Lamp Posts), 2015.
Derek Besant, Flatiron Building, 1980.
Henry Moore, Three Way Disk No. 2 (The Archer), 1967.
Nick Sweetman, StART Underpass (UP) Program.
birdO, in partnership with Slate Asset Management, StART Monumental Program.
Robert Reid, Canadian Volunteers War Memorial, 1870.

About the Author

Bhabna Banerjee

By Bhabna Banerjee

Creative Director

production@excal.on.ca

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